Rhetorical Analysis Hydraulic Fracturing and the Ground Water

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RhetoricalAnalysis: Hydraulic Fracturing and the Ground Water Contamination.

Forthis public argument, the issue being addressed is hydraulicfracturing, commonly known as fracking. It is a letter to the editor,a response to an article published in Scientific American in 2013called “Groundwater Contamination May End the Gas-Fracking Boom”by Mark Fischetti. The main public argument raised in the article isthat the process of fracking contaminates the ground water withmethane, which in turn endangers the health as well as the lives ofthe people living near the mining sites. Fischetti tries to show thereaders that the rate at which the process of fracking contaminatesthe ground water is sufficient to prove that hydraulic fracturingshould be brought to an end. Logos are a significant rhetorical toolthat allowed Fischetti to convince the audience that frackingresulted in the contamination of ground water.

Theaudience of this article is the readers of Scientific American, whoread the article on fracking that is being responded to. The readerswho are being specifically addressed would be those who havebackground knowledge of fracking, and are interested in working toeither increase the restrictions on it or stop it in highly populatedregions of the U.S. The genre of this public argument is aneditorial a letter to the editor, in response to an articlepublished in Scientific American. Letters to the editor aresignificant because they prompt lively public discussion moreeffectively than other types of genre (Wilkins 1). Fischetti presentsthe argument in the context of environment pollution, since therelease of methane into the ground water results in water pollution.The primary purpose of the article and the argument is to convincethe readers that fracturing will eventually be brought to an end ifsufficient measures are not taken to reduce its impact on the groundwater (Ridlington 9 and Colborn1041).

Ina journal article, Colborn (1041) applied logos to convince theaudience that the contamination of the groundwater results from otherimpurities that extracted together with the targeted item (such asgas or oil), and not necessarily from the fracturing process. Colbornstated “raw natural gas comes out of the well along with water,various liquid hydrocarbons including toluene, benzene, ethylbenzene, and xylene (p. 1041). By stating this, Colborn tries to givethe audience a reason to believe that the contamination ofunderground water is caused by these components and not the processof extraction as it is widely thought. However, Fischetti managed touse logos in a more convincing way to show that audience that themining companies have failed to apply the fracturing technique in away that can minimize its impact on the environment. This fact showsthat the possibility of the contaminants that the mining companiesassociate with the contaminations leak to the water wells as a resultof misappropriation of the fracking technique. It is, therefore,evident that the fracking technique should be blamed for thewidespread contamination of drinking water.

Inan article published in 2013, Healy used logos to show that thecontamination of the groundwater results from pre-existing fracturesas well as the volume of the local rock. By stating this, Healyattempts to show that the contamination of the ground water can onlyoccur in areas that have pre-existing fractures. The author tries touse logos to reduce the public perception that the use of frackingwill automatically result in the contamination of drinking water inthe neighboring wells. Fischetti also used logos to counter thisargument by showing that groundwater contamination and closeness ofdrinking water wells to fracking sites are positively associated. Forexample, Fischetti support this argument with the findings presentedby a chemical engineer showing that methane is found in about 115 outof 141 shallow wells that are located close to the mining sites wherefracking is used. The findings also indicated that shallow wells thatare a mile from the site where fracking is done are six times morelikely to be contaminated compared to those that are located faraway. This is a sufficient reason to persuade readers that fracturingis responsible the presence of methane in the drinking water and notthe pre-existence of fractures.

Ridlingtonalso made a significant contribution towards the public argument.With the use of logos Ridlington indicated that between 6 % and &amp7 % of all fracking wells in Pennsylvania had a compromised integrityin the structure. Ridlington‘s intention was to convince theaudience that the fracking process may not be the primary cause ofthe contamination of the underground water in Pennsylvania. However,Fischetti managed to use logos to counter this argument by showingthat the claim made by the mining companies can be disapprovedthrough chemical analysis. This type of analysis has the capacity todistinguish between the gas that came naturally from the rockfissures and the one that was introduced into the ground waterthrough the fracturing process. By including these facts in thepaper, Fischetti manages to show the audience that the type ofcontamination that results from fracturing is different from thecontamination that results from other sources.

Theuse of logos allows Fischetti to give the audience a reason to linkthe ground water contamination with the fracturing process. This hasbeen achieved by giving the empirical evidence of fracked wells thathave been proven to be leaking, thus contaminating the drinking waterin the neighborhood. For example, Fischetti supports the argumentusing the report of an expert from the University of Cornell. Thisreported indicated that most of the wells out of 41,311 drilled andexploited using the fracturing technology in Pennsylvania wereleaking methane into the nearby water wells. This is a persuasivepiece of information that helps Fischetti to convince the targetaudience that fracturing is not an environmentally friendly processsince it results in water contamination.

Inconclusion, Fischetti used logos to persuade the audience that thefracking process is an environmentally unfriendly process thatresults in the contamination of ground water. However, the miningcompanies have been trying to convince the public that thecontamination results from other factors (such as the pre-existenceof fractures and contaminants that extracted together with the targetresources), and not the fracking technique. Fischetti’s audience isthe readers of the journal of Scientific America, who have someknowledge of the fracking technology. Fischetti shows that therelationship between fracking and groundwater contamination has beenempirically proven. The author also shows that the well’s closenessto sites where fracking has been used increased the risk of beingcontaminated with methane. With the use of logos, Fischetti managedto disprove the claim that methane that contaminates drinking wateroriginates from rock fissures. In essence, the use of logos is animportant tool that allows the Fischetti to persuade their audiencesthat their argument is correct and spur a lively public debate.


Colborn,T., Kowski, C. and Bachran, M. “Natural gas operations from apublic health perspective”. Humanand ecological risk assessment17.5 (2011): 1039-1056. Web.

Fischetti,M. “Groundwater contamination may end the gas-fracking”.ScientificAmerica309.3 (2013): 1. Web.

Healy,D. Hydraulicfracturing or fracking: A short summary of current knowledge andpotential environmental impacts.Aberdeen: University of Aberdeen, 2013. Print.

Ridlington,E. and Rumpler, J. Frackingby the numbers: Key impacts of dirty drilling at the state andnational level.Washington, DC: Environment America Research and Policy Center, 2013.Print.

Wilkins,W. ANS: Advances in nursing science blog. Peggychin.April 17. 2011. Web. December 12. 2014.